This essay develops a history of salvage both as particular activity and as concept, arguing that it has quietly become one of the fundamental structures of thought that shape how we envision future possibility. However, the contemporary sense of the word, which designates the recuperation or search for value in what has already been destroyed, is a recent one and represents a significant transformation from the notion of salvage in early modern European maritime and insurance law. In that earlier iteration, salvage denoted payment received for helping to avert a disaster, such as keeping the ship and its goods from sinking in the first place. Passing through the dislocation of this concept into private salvage firms, firefighting companies, military usage, avant-garde art, and onto the human body itself in the guise of “personal risk,” the essay argues that the twentieth century becomes indelibly marked by a sense of the disaster that has already occurred. The second half of the essay passes into speculative culture, including fiction, video games, and film, to suggest that the most critical approaches to salvage have often come under the sign of science fiction but that the last decade in particular has shown how recent quotidian patterns of gentrification and defused antagonism have articulated stranger shifts in the figure of salvage than any speculative imaginary can currently manage.